Break away from the tech: Making time for human connection makes you a better worker.

Technology can make people feel isolated in the office, so you need to make greater efforts to stay engaged with co-workers

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Have you ever felt alone in an office full of people? I've worked for companies where I felt like an off-site worker even though I was surrounded by hundreds of co-workers.

The main reason was that we were so immersed in the office technology as a way to communicate, we didn't necessarily look up and communicate with those around us. We welcome the marvels of technology at work, but the downside is that without moderation we can lose real human connection--the kind that comes from going out to lunch or getting a coffee together.

Need to ask a colleague a question? Instead of picking up the phone or walking down the hall, many of us still choose to email, text, or instant message. (I have even had the experience of co-workers instant messaging me when I am only one desk away.)  And who hasn't further isolated themselves by listening to Spotify with headphones while they work?

Of course, the advantage of technology is to create more time and space for people to get their work done. But human connection is also a key component to being more productive and feeling motivated to achieve a common goal.

So what's the answer? Find  a middle-ground--use technology for some types of communication, but be mindful to spend a healthy amount of time investing in real face-to-face relationships with your colleagues and teams.

Here are four simple strategies I use myself and recommend to my teams to keep them plugged in with each other instead of technology.

1. Take walk breaks.

Research has found that people work best when they work in 25-minute segments followed by a short break. Adopt this approach and share your scheduled break with someone. Rather than scheduling one-on-one meetings in the confines of the office, I routinely ask a colleague to take a walk-and-talk with me outside, or even get a healthy smoothie and take a walking lunch.

2. Set up coffee meetings.

Every Friday have your co-workers or team meet at a coffee shop before coming to work for an hour-long pow-wow to get to know each other and talk about topics, besides normal work conversations.

For people who work remotely, book a monthly get-together virtually. I like to give people gift cards for Starbucks and pair up team members for "coffee time" with a task to brainstorm on ideas that could help improve their jobs and the business outside their normal job responsibilities. I have found that when you give people freedom to be creative in these meetings, it provides them the space to bond over a shared interest.

3. Do different jobs.

A great way for people to stay engaged with others is to learn more about the other job responsibilities of their co-workers. Try this: Once a month, have people shadow one of their co-workers to learn what they do.

This not only allows the person to learn more about the entire business, but gives them a chance to interact with someone they may not know as well. This helps people be able to take on each other's tasks when they go on vacation as well so there is no downtime in the business.

4. Host an offsite experience.

Another way to increase worker connections is to set up an off-site eventwhere people can bond over a fun, learning experience. For instance, have people attend a group painting or cooking class. One of my favorite bonding events are escape rooms where people have to solve a series of puzzles and riddles from clues in a room in order to "escape."

While technology can bring people together, it can also be a barrier to creating meaningful human connection. Try some of these tips above to help you and your team regularly unplug and develop healthy working relationships. Not only will these in-person connections enhance employee communication and productivity, but you and your team will feel happier and look forward to coming into work each day.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON INC.COM: JUN 21, 2018

Amy VetterComment